The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Château Rieussec and Château Bélair-Monange

Posted on | March 25, 2015 | Written by Robin Kelley OConnor | No Comments

Robin_D_8.6.14_72dpiBordeaux was in force recently in New York City with an all-day tasting and an evening black-tie bacchanal in the magnificent Saint Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue. The following day Sotheby’s Auction House hosted another Bordeaux tasting and dinner. This weekend in Bordeaux over 3,000 members of the trade and press will descend on the region for a week long tasting of barrel samples of the 2014 vintage known as “en Primeur.” Today, I’ve decided to return to my wine roots. I’ve chosen two great Bordeaux; one is a Sauternes from Château Rieussec, and the other is a Saint-Émilion from Château Bélair-Monange.

Château Rieussec has been a leading wine in Sauternes for over 150 years. In the eighteenth century, the Rieussec estate belonged to the Carmelite monks. The estate was confiscated during the French Revolution and sold at a public sale around 1790. In 1855 it was classified as a Premier Grand Cru Classé, receiving its ranking in part due to the quality of the soil and terroir. In 1984 Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) acquired Château Rieussec, and at that time, the estate then consisted of 272 acres, with 168 acres planted to the vine. An extensive new cellar was built in 1989 to further extend the ageing period in barrels and consequently enhance the quality. The quantities of the Grand Vin were reduced. In 2000, further renovations of the cellar took place with construction of a fermentation room. Recent releases have garnered high praise from wine critics.

Château Bélair Saint-Émilion 1er Grand Cru Classé, located in the village of Saint-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is owned by the dynamic father-and-son winemaking team of Christian and Edouard Moueix. The pair is closely associated with some of Bordeaux’s most successful wines, like Pétrus and Château Trotanoy of Pomerol and Château Magdelaine, a Saint-Émilion 1er Grand Cru Classé. They also have one of California’s great wines, Dominus of Napa Valley. This historic property, based in the dead center of Saint-Émilion, has been producing wines since the mid 1300’s. In 2008 Château Belair was sold in its entirety to J-P Ets. Moueix. After the sale, Château Belair name was changed to Belair-Monage, which was chosen by Christian Moueix, in the memory of Anne-Adèle Monange. In 2012 the Moueixs officially merged Château Magdelaine into Bélair-Monange to create Château Belair-Monange St. Émilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, one of the great wines of Bordeaux. Château Belair Monage increased its holding and size in 2012 following the 2012 Classification of St. Émilion.

Château Rieussec 1er Grand Cru Classé Sauternes 2010 $84.99

Château Rieussec is a blend of 92 % Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle. The 2010 growing season had its ups and downs for the sweet white category. For the reds it was perfect, but for the sweet whites it was more challenging. Up to mid June there was fairly high amount of rainfall, causing unevenness during the flowering and leading to uneven grape size. July through September was very dry with superb daytime temperatures and cool nights, which was perfect for slow ripening of the grapes. One consequence of the dry weather was smaller grapes and a reduction in volume. A classic textbook Sauternes of deep, bright yellow, this ’10 wine has a floral nose with beautiful scents that nicely integrated with the wood and fruit. Its palate is all about finesse and elegance with an incredible freshness, complexity and concentration. It has a long finish with gorgeous long flavors of exotic fruits, spice, and honey.

Château Bélair-Monange 1er Grand Cru Classé Saint- Émilion 2009 $199.00

The extraordinary Bordeaux 2009 vintage was a stellar success at Château Bélair -Monange. The Moueixs began the 2009 harvest with a strict selection in the vineyard, reducing yields and picking later. The Moueixs introduce optical sorting with an end result of allowing them to choose the riper fruit for eventual fermentation. Consequently, the 2009 Belair-Monange is a richer, more concentrated, complex and fleshier wine than previous vintages. A beautiful ruby red, this wine has a nose that bursts with red plums, black raspberries, cherries, mocha, and dark chocolate; it’s smoky, spicy, earthy, and just lovely. On the palate, the wine is medium-full bodied with explosive flavors of ripe, pure red and dark fruits. Seductive with a lush texture, this is a wine made for the ages, built to last for 40 years—it’s a real treasure!



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